A&S Interview: Captain Eric Brown
Holder of the Guinness World Record for most types of aircraft flown.
- By Rebecca Maksel
- Air & Space magazine, July 2009
Courtesy Simon Blacker
The former chief test pilot at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, England, holds the world’s record for most types of aircraft flown—a whopping 487—and the record for most carrier landings: 2,407. Captain Eric Brown spoke with Air & Space associate editor Rebecca Maksel on January 26, 2009.
Air & Space: The number of different aircraft that you’ve flown is simply astonishing. In your book you write “The speed with which I had to switch from one type of machine to another…forced me to invent a special system of memorizing the layouts of various cockpits, engine settings, and other vital data.” Can you tell us a little about the system you used?
Brown: It rather evolved from the fact that I flew a large number of German aircraft at the end of the war, because they had a standardized system. All the instruments in the cockpit had color codes around the perimeter of the gauge—for example, red for emergency, brown for oil, blue for oxygen. Once you had this standardized system, it made life very simple for you to identify any instrument. So, bearing this in mind, I tended to daub with pencil around the gauges of non-German aircraft these same color codes. And this helped enormously.
Now, another thing the [Germans] had was for setting rpm, revolutions per minute. You didn’t have to bother about watching an rpm gauge like we do. The gauges had the same configuration as a clock, and provided you set the hands of the clock to 12 o’clock, they had been preset for the particular engine you were dealing with. You didn’t have to remember 2,400 rpm for this engine, 3,200 rpm for that other engine. It was simply: Go to 12 o’clock. So that helped enormously also. We didn’t have that system, but I would pencil right on the gauge the rpm that were required. So you didn’t have to memorize it. You put it on before you flew the aircraft.
Now you can do a tremendous amount if you just devote about 10 minutes to a quarter of an hour before you fly an aircraft to preparation. This is the vital thing if you go into flying a new type of aircraft...particularly knowing the emergencies. There is an attitude amongst pilots that emergencies are a rare occurrence. Well, hopefully that is true. But that’s not to say the emergency won’t happen on your first flight. And unless you’re prepared for that, you’re going to fiddle around. Now, I always carried with me a knee pad on which were written only the emergencies. The rest were dealt with by the color-coding etcetera in the cockpit. But I had the emergencies. And they were written so that if an emergency occurred, I didn’t have to scratch around thinking, “Oh, what do you do here?” I had it exactly in front of me.
Air & Space: Did you ever have to eject from an aircraft?
Brown: No, I’ve bailed out, but never ejected.
Air & Space: Can you tell us about the time you bailed out?